FORMER mayor of Limerick Jim Long has warned the new council not to tamper with the bin waiver scheme.
The Limerick Leader this week revealed that the waiver scheme could face a 20% cut in funding after councillors voted to reduce the property tax by 3%.
This came from figures prepared by local authority management on where they would make funding cuts in the event of a property tax reduction.
But councillors can veto the cuts in favour of other budget changes - and Mr Long has urged that they do this.
It was when Mr Long was an Independent councillor back in 2005 that he pushed for the scheme to be introduced.
It provides a number of free, means-tested bin collections on an annual basis to the elderly and vulnerable.
With the support of Cllr John Gilligan and former Labour councillor John Ryan the scheme was brought through.
“We fought very hard, and we were very successful in putting a much needed service in place. We ringfenced it so it would never ever be interfered with under any circumstances. It cannot and must not be interfered with,” he said.
Mr Long said the waiver scheme is “of huge importance” to people in the former city administrative area.
“If you look around any of the bin collections, you will see in excess of 4,000 waiver bins. We can’t afford to interfere with that. I know they are only talking about a 20% cut, but if you cut it this year, they will go for it again next year,” he said.
The former Fine Gael councillor, who lost his seat at May’s election following the merger of City and County Council, claimed the executive have always tried to do away with the service.
He said: “It was always a strategy and policy of council management to get rid of this scheme. The waiver scheme was a thorn in their side. They always addressed it pre-budget. We always went into pre-budget meetings to say the one thing we would never talk about is the waiver scheme.”
Sinn Fein has already declared it will not vote through a budget which contains a cut to the waiver scheme.
However, the other party’s attitudes remain to be seen.
Mr Long said: “I want to say to the Anti-Austerity Alliance and Sinn Fein that they got the mandate from the people and a lot of Fine Gael councillors, and Labour councillors were boosted by this.”
And he concluded with this message for his successors at City Hall: “It is a new council, they have the power to make sure this does not happen. Don’t let the people down, because the people gave them your trust in the local election.”